In the past couple of weeks, Teddy has eaten yogurt and applesauce, and gummed on a cucumber slice and some naan. None of it was planned, nor imbued with any pomp or circumstance, and none of it was photographed. Oh, the poor second child! All of it was greatly enjoyed by the boy, and the moms did indeed focus a great deal of attention on him in the moment, but it’s a far cry from the way the first food was handled with the elder child.
While I was pregnant with Teddy, my mom gave me a book about second children (Your Second Child, by Joan Weiss). I read it with curiosity, disdain, and mounting anger, for it described the ways that parents treat children differently by birth order, claims I’d seen in passing elsewhere, but which were given full-length treatment (albeit in most dated fashion, as it was originally written in 1981 and only superficially updated since, most recently in the ’90s). As soon as possible after finishing the book, I sold it at a yard sale. Or gave it away. Or took it to Value Village. I can’t recall exactly how, but I disposed of it, with righteous glee.
And now I wish I hadn’t. For the things it described, which horrified me during my pregnancy, are happening without a doubt in our family. I think reading it now would be a very different experience than before Teddy arrived. For one thing, we don’t do all the things the book assured me we’d do, but more to the point, we do treat him differently AND IT’S OKAY. He gets less hovering, but more space to be himself. He often doesn’t get our full attention, but when he does, we’re really reveling in him, and he also has the added benefit of his sister’s attention and antics. The grin on his face when she talks to him and plays with him is delightful and electric.
One thing that has surprised me about raising a second child, however, is the difference in how *I* experience the milestones. When Natalie got a tooth, or tasted her first food, or any of the countless firsts we celebrated, we were thrilled beyond belief. In these past months as Teddy has chalked up new developmental achievements, I’ve discovered that there’s a tinge of melancholy this time. It’s more than likely that he’s our last baby, so while it’s delightful to see HIM develop, grow, and change, it’s also a little bittersweet to see him move past the sweet, tiny baby phase and think we may never experience gummy grins again.
Thank God the toothy grins are meltingly adorable. Not to mention the other reality of two kids: we don’t have a helluva lot of time to sit around being blue!